“There are no perfect relationships. There are no perfect partners. Relationships by their very nature are chaotic, eventful, and challenging.”
― Robert A. Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy
One of the books that has had the most profound impact on my life is Dr. Robert Glover’s No More Mr. Nice Guy.
The book uncovers:
- the truth about the stereotypical Nice Guy
- why modern society has created so many of them
- why they fail to get the relationships and career success they crave
- how to take back your life in an honest, non-manipulative way without becoming a jerk
It also goes into detailed stories of many of his Nice Guy clients and specific steps on how to break free from this behavior.
Dr. Glover understands Nice Guys deeply, having coached thousands of them as a licensed psychotherapist. He adeptly addresses specific common questions like, “Why is it a bad thing to be nice?” and “How do I talk to a girl without making it seem like I’m hitting on her?”
What Is A Nice Guy?
A Nice Guy is a man who doesn’t think he’s can be his true self. He feels like he has to hide his true intentions to get what he wants, resulting in dysfunctional relationships. He also manages his anxiety and his need to please others in passive-aggressive ways.
A Nice Guy has “covert contracts” or assumptions about what he’ll get back if he does something for someone else. That’s right. He’s not truly selfless. He gives to get.
The three universal covert contracts are:
- If I am a good guy, then everyone will love me and like me (and people I desire will desire me).
- If I meet other people’s needs without them having to ask, then they will meet my needs without me having to ask.
- If I do everything right, then I will have a smooth, problem-free life.
These three are also considered limiting beliefs since they aren’t true but Nice Guys believe they’re true, which limit their potential.
You will still meet people who dislike you no matter how nice you are. People don’t expect or realize they have to meet your needs if you meet yours, especially if you don’t ask. And if you do everything right, life will still hand you tough blows; a successful person has to plan ahead and roll with the punches.
Nice Guys have common frustrations in life:
- They give so much and are mad they don’t get enough back.
- They want to be appreciated but they feel like they can never do enough.
- They wonder it will be “their turn.” They have a poor or zero romantic or sex lives.
An Interview with Dr. Robert Glover
Listen to my exclusive interview with Dr. Glover. We dive deep into unique Asian American obstacles, like racism, parental pressure, bamboo ceilings in your career, holding back too much, and more.
Nice Guys Aren’t So Nice
“Just about everything a Nice Guy does is consciously or unconsciously calculated to gain someone’s approval or to avoid disapproval.”
― Robert A. Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy
One of the main themes of the book is that the stereotypical nice guy isn’t actually so selfless.
They can mislead, manipulate, bend the truth with white lies, and do and say things but only with the intention of getting something back in return.
The Nice Guy Syndrome is, at its core, an anxiety- and shame-based disorder.
Everything a Nice Guy does is about managing his internal anxiety and how the world perceives him. He strives to maintain a constantly problem-free life and keep the peace with everyone, an impossible task.
Sometimes, they’re scared of doing anything selfish for themselves to please others, which can backfire and drain their energy. Other times, they’re nice and do favors but have an unspoken, unrealistic expectation that they will get something back if they do it.
Stop Any Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Passive-aggressive behavior is when you act aggressively towards someone in a passive way when they don’t expect it or can’t explain themselves. Being passive-aggressive is always bad.
Asian Americans can easily fall into this pattern when they’re always expected to perform at unfair standards and can’t complain about it.
Sometimes, it leaks out in negative ways, especially when chained with any covert contracts you have.
If you believe you should always please your mother no matter what, as many Nice Guys do, she becomes the center of your world and may chain you down. When the work becomes too much and you start neglecting activities you enjoy and other relationships, you may lash out in passive-aggressive ways. It could be a backhanded verbal attack with a sticky note or a sudden outburst days after she wronged you.
Women are put off severely by unpredictable passive-aggressive behavior. It’s uncomfortable to always be on their toes, not knowing when the next eruption will happen.
Nice Guys Don’t Finish Last: They Rot in Middle Management
That is the name of one of Dr. Glover’s coaching programs. The name is spectacular because it rings true and paints such a story in just a few words.
While I found out about the book for relationship and social skills issues, I was surprised to learn that the Nice Guy syndrome can ripple through to your success in other areas of life, such as your profession and wealth.
This is exceptionally important to me and gives me even more motivation to get it fixed.
Be Honest With Your Sexuality (Hiding Sexual Shame & “Hitting on Her Without Seeming Like I’m Hitting on Her”)
Many Nice Guys assume that they have to conceal any signs of interest with a girl due to their sexual shame.
Dr. Glover replies with, “But you are hitting on her.” He says you should make your intentions clear.
You shouldn’t be scared of hiding your sexuality because as men, that is what you do. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of hitting on her because that’s a normal, masculine process and you are interested in hitting on her — that’s why you’re talking to her.
By hiding this, you are reducing or eliminating all chances of romance with the girl by misleading her.
Then, most Nice Guys react by swinging to the other end of the spectrum and asking, “So you’re saying I have to go over to her and say I want to have sex with her?”
Dr. Glover responds with saying that you don’t have to be so crass. You can be tactful and polite about it. For example, how about starting with a compliment about her dress instead?
You Don’t Have To Be A Jerk
“I don’t know the tipping point between two dysfunctional extremes.” -Dr. Robert Glover
Nice Guys often react initially to the book by saying, “What’s wrong with being nice? Are you telling me I should be a jerk?”
Dr. Glover asserts that being an asshole is just as bad a dysfunction as the nice guy. Rather than using “flight” to run from anxiety, assholes “fight” to manage anxiety.
Instead, the answer is in the middle. Be a “Tender Defender” — someone who is assertive and kind with proper timing and degree.
Get Off Porn
In the digital age, young men have grown up with access to porn. They’ve used this as the main way to learn about romantic relationships and communication, which is a horrible way since it fake and staged to create situations based on fantasy.
Putting yourself in as many real-life social situations as you can, reading literary fiction, watching good romantic comedies (in that order of priority) to reflect and learn are better ways to succeed.
Ask For What You Want
One of Dr. Glover’s clients was frustrated with not getting enough sex and he was told to simply ask his spouse for more. When he did, he was surprised to hear her say yes.
It turns out that she assumed he wasn’t interested or too busy.
Nice Guys get so caught up in finding indirect ways of getting what they want that their message gets lost and they end up assuming that the other party won’t agree to a direct request when that isn’t true.
Do Something You Enjoy
Dr. Glover also recommends dedicating time today or this week to doing something that you enjoy, regardless of whether it will help someone else, even if it’s completely unproductive.
Nice Guys are often workaholics who hustle hard to succeed by helping others. But can end up burning out or exploding like a bottled-up, shaken soda can eventually because of the friction of doing too much stuff they don’t enjoy for others.
Hang Out With Other Masculine Men
There are more and more Nice Guys than ever before since boys grow up being taught mainly by women and have fewer or zero male role models.
Now, men are absent because of divorce, business travel, or death. And most of the teachers in school are female.
Because of this, many men don’t learn essential masculine traits, like assertiveness, and base their behavior off the feminine traits they see.
To cure this, create or hang out in more social groups that are 100% men. While there is a benefit to hang around females to learn how they think and interact, hanging only in female groups all the time will cause problems.
No More Mr. Nice Guy Exercises Cheatsheet
Breaking free from the Nice Guy Syndrome is possible. Dr. Glover has helped thousands do it. Here’s some of the exercises he recommends:
What I love about the book is that it comes with dozens of detailed, time-tested exercises for overcoming your Nice Guy tendencies.
With any book, you haven’t got a bulk of the positive impact it provides until you’ve done all the exercises in it.
I want to touch on some of the exercises I think will help you most.
Write 3 safe people or groups that can provide support for you in your recovery from the Nice Guy Syndrome. If you can’t think of any, look up counselors or support groups in local directories. Or consider an Employee Assistance Program. Search up 12 step groups or support groups online. If you know someone who has been in one, ask for information. Write down 3 names and numbers and call them now.
Depending on where you live, Google may not work so well. From what I’ve found, the best place, by far, to look is the PsychologyToday.com Support Group search feature. You can search by location and filter by category.
I love this exercise because it’s great for people on a budget ($40 to $100 per session). One-on-one psychiatrists can get expensive (up to hundreds per session), even though they can be effective. Also, a group dynamic is especially important and useful for Nice Guy habits. It’s great to see and converse with people like you.
Another alternative is to look for these groups on Meetup.com. I’ve found few using this strategy. I’ve found that big No More Mr. Nice Guy groups and coaches can get costly. If you can afford it, go for it. If you can’t, be creative.
I suggest being more open-minded in what support groups you would be willing to attend. Any general adult anxiety support group could be enough.
You could expand even broader if you’re really having trouble finding in anything in your area. I’m considering going to a Food Addicts group even though that isn’t my problem just to have a real support group who I can talk to.
Something is often better than nothing. And one big point Dr. Glover emphasizes constantly is that you don’t and shouldn’t have to do it alone.
Ask yourself: Why would it seem rational for someone to try to eliminate or hide things about him and try to be something different unless there was a compelling reason? Why do people try to change who they are? Take some time and thank about it. Is this your behavior or that of someone you know?
For me, it’s about not getting what you want if you reveal how you are. Take relationships. Maybe a pretty girl may not like a dorky skinny, shy guy, so lifting weights and a false act of charisma is adopted.
Realize it’s not necessary to uncover every experience that makes you feel unsafe or bad. But some understanding of where a life script originated is helpful in changing the script. Reread the stories of Alan, Jason, and Jose. How are they similar to your own childhood experiences? Write down or illustrate the messages you received in your family that seeemed to imply that it wasn’t ok for you to be who you were. Share these experiences with a safe person. How do you feel? Do you feel sad, angry, lonely, numb? Share this too. Name rather than blame. Blaming keeps you stuck. Naming these childhood experiences allows you to replace those messages with more accurate ones and change your script.
Look over this list. Note any ways you seek approval. Add to the list any examples that are uniquely you. Write down examples of each. Ask others for feedback on ways you seek approval.
- Having one’s hair just right.
- Being smart.
- Having a pleasant, non-threatening voice.
- Appearing unselfish.
- Being different from other men.
- Staying sober.
- Being in good shape.
- Being a great dancer.
- Being a good lover.
- Never getting angry.
- Making other people happy.
- Being a good worker.
- Having a clean car.
- Dressing well.
- Being nice.
- Respecting women.
- Never offending anyone.
How I Applied Some of the Exercises and Lessons
According to Dr. Glover’s Are You A Nice Guy? quiz, I scored a 60 on the Nice Guy meter. I’m a pretty good candidate for Nice Guy.
Here’s what I wrote when I listed out traits I think a real man should have:
- Assertive in the right situations
- Stands up for himself and others when appropriate
- Kind and compassionate within reason
- A team player that helps the tribe thrive
- Willing to take the initiative
- Able and willing to do the tough tasks and make the tough decisions that need to be made
- Purpose driven
- Alive and excited about their hobbies and life
- Brave when necessary
- Resource provider within reason
- Able to set boundaries and say no
- Able to draw the line
- Able to call people out who are stepping over the line
Here is what I found when I did the exercise rating my behavioral reactions to how my father is:
Temper and anger – him: 7.5 but now 6.4. Me: 6.8 and now 5.3.
Punishment or discipline of others – him: 7 but now 6. Im probably: 4 or 3.
Family time / non absentee – him: 3 and me: 8.6
Empathy and understanding of child: him:4.6 and now 5.5, me: 4.5 and now 5?
Resource provider: him:? 9 and me: 5 ( neutral).
Practical intelligence: him: 9 and me: 3.6
Nice Guys Lack Push-Pull (Positive Emotional Tension)
After two decades of coaching Nice Guys, Dr. Glover discovered a concept he calls positive emotional tension (PET). This is a core part of the interaction that Nice Guys fail to include in an interaction, which leads to the friend zone, a scarcity of dates, or marriages going stale.
That’s because women sometimes need tension to feel attraction.
With PET, women feel that spark that keeps a relationship fresh.
When you do PET correctly, you shouldn’t be lying, manipulating, or being someone you’re not. The tension should not make the woman feel bad either. That would be negative emotional tension, is what assholes use.
Some dating coaches refer to something similar as “push-pull.”
PET is about standing up for your opinions and values when appropriate, not being too predictable all the time, and honestly expressing who you are and what you want.
Get the Book, No More Mr. Nice Guy
I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s one of my top book recommendations of all time for Asian American men because they fall into the traps and limitations of the Nice Guy due to their culture so much.
Buy the book on Amazon here. If you purchase through my link, I will get a commission at no extra cost to you.
“Choose a woman who chooses you.” -David Deida
Dr. Glover preaches on common point in his podcasts and talks (and at the end of the NMMNG book): you don’t have to do it alone and you shouldn’t.
Join NMMNG meet up groups nearby.
For me, I’ve found that they’re only offered in the major cities in the world in small numbers at MeetUp.com or DrGlover.com for a heightened price. For those who can’t afford or access this, like me, I suggest checking out any men’s support groups. There is one I found on co-ed anxiety that I will look into that is affordable. On top of that, make male friends that you can trust to confide with about this stuff.
You can still claim your masculinity. Don’t give up. I won’t.
Here are some great podcast interviews with Dr. Glover that go deeper into the subject.
Check out my article on the top 5 books on masculinity.
Are you a Nice Guy? What traits do you think have held you back and how do you plan to fix it?
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